Welcome to the first Food for Thought episode of 2023 — the 17th year of this podcast! Let’s kick this new year off with recommendations of the best films and books enjoyed this past year. You can refer to the blog post for the list of movies. Grab some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy!
As you’ll see below, we tend to get into themes when we watch movies — it might be a number of films by a certain director or about a particular topic or from a specific country — and that was no exception in 2022. (See Films Watched in 2021 and Films Watched in 2020.)
Top 10 Films Watched in 2022
I’ve provided a synopsis of our Top 10 Films from 2022, followed by some theme categories, followed by a longer list of the name of the films we watched along with the rating we gave them on a scale of 1-10 — 10 being the best. The list below starts with those we’ve rated 9.0, but they — and those rated 8.0 after that — are in no particular order.
1. The Battle of Chile (1973)
David and I always start the new year with a long film or film series, and for 2022 we chose The Battle of Chile, a three-part film about the fall of Salvador Allende and the rise of August Pinochet. Watching this 3-part film just days before the 1st anniversary of the January 6th insurrection of the U.S. Capitol was both fitting and harrowing.
To be sure, there are fundamental differences between the Chilean far right taking down a democratically elected government and the divisive state of our country today. First of all, Chile had a major foreign power backing them (the United States) and a military that acted on its own — independent of the constitutional government.
But there are chilling similarities that every American will recognize in this story and that every American needs to see. As for the filmmaking itself, it’s incredible. The amount of footage and the breadth and depth of the storytelling are enough to justify the high esteem with which it is still regarded 50 years after its debut, and while it is clear which side the filmmakers support, it is hard not to sympathize with the conviction, compassion, and tenacity of the pro-government workers. Highly recommended. 9.0
2. Hot Fuzz (2007)
Directed by Edgar Wright; Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, and Bill Nighy; written by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Being a huge fan of British comedy, I don’t know why it took me so long to watch what the filmmakers themselves call the “Cornetto Trilogy”: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End. All three films are directed by Edgar Wright and written by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (who also star in all three).
I’d heard about Shaun of the Dead for years and years, but I think I was skeptical of the zombie apocalypse theme (and in the end rated it 7.0). Still, it was my loss for waiting this long. We didn’t watch the “trilogy” in the order in which the films were made; we started with Hot Fuzz, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I started laughing within the first 3 minutes. The screenwriting, the comedic timing, the editing, the delightful silliness all combine to create a joyful viewing experience! 9.0 for Hot Fuzz! (P.S. We rated The World’s End8.0.)
3. Baby Driver (2017)
Another film we rated 9.0 was a movie I had never even heard of before. And like with Hot Fuzz, I was hooked from the moment it started. It’s also directed by Edgar Wright (who made the aforementioned comedies), and it might be one of the most perfect little heist films I’ve ever seen.
Part dark comedy, part character study, part heist film, part hero story, part …. well….getaway film. (And yes, we’ve decided that is its own genre.) The editing is stellar, the cast is fantastic, and if you like dark comedies, this film is for you.
Heart and humor isn’t all it has; it’s also got one of the most endearing main characters on film, and the music is a significant part of the story. Because of an accident he had when he was young, Baby has a perpetual ringing in his ears. Music is one of the things that brings him relief, and so he essentially creates a soundtrack to every experience in his life. Don’t miss this film. 9.0
4. The “Pusher” Trilogy
The trilogy starts with Pusher, made in 1996 and starring Mads Mikkelsen (one of my FAVORITE actors), followed by Pusher II (2004), then Pusher III (2005). We gave Pusher and Pusher II each an 8.0, but Pusher III didn’t live up to the first two and got a 6.0 from us.
Hear me and hear me now…these films are not for the faint of heart. Pusher is about a drug pusher who grows increasingly desperate after a botched deal leaves him with a large debt to a ruthless drug lord. The films are gritty and violent, and the characters are no angels, but the stories are skillfully told.
5. Memories of Murder (2003)
Moving from Denmark to South Korea, we have another 8.0 film, directed in 2003 by Joon Ho Bong, who also directed the Academy-award-winning Parasite. Both films are irreverent and darkly humorous, though I think Memories of Murder is the superior of the two. Based on a true story about an inept police detective trying to solve a string of rapes and serial murders in a small Korean village, it is adeptly made and well-deserving of its ranking of 8.0.
6. Sacco & Vanzetti (1971)
Moving back to Europe from Korea, we have an 1971 Italian film based on the true story of the 1921-1927 imprisonment, trial, conviction, and execution of two Italian-born immigrant anarchists, named Sacco and Vanzetti. Starring another favorite actor of mine — Gian Maria Volontè — it’s just a complicated story told well. Quite a feat considering the bulk of the story takes place in a courtroom. 8.0
7. The Mattei Affair (1972)
Also starring Gian Maria Volontè and directed by the masterful Francesco Rosi, this film is based on the true story of an Italian industrialist who died in a plane crash and revolves around the question (that has never been answered): was it an accident or an assassination? 8.0
8. The Little World of Don Camillo (1952)
Staying in Italy but traveling back 20 years, we have a classic Italian comedy about a determined priest and a Communist mayor who develop a grudging friendship in spite of their official rivalry. The dynamic between the two main characters / actors is so engrossing that several other films have been made starring the same actors and featuring the same characters. 8.0
9. The Alpinist (2021) and Torn (2021)
Other than The Battle of Chile, we didn’t have any documentaries on our list, so I thought I would choose two from our 8.0 ranking and honor two films about climbing. Both very moving and beautifully told — and both tied for 8.0.
10. The Intouchables (2011)
I thought I would end the list with one that — for me — was the feel-good film of the year! As you can see from this year’s list and from those in previous years, we watch a lot of movies with serious or dark subject matter, but in this French film from 2011, we struck feel-good gold. After he becomes a quadriplegic from a paragliding accident, an aristocrat hires a young man from the projects to be his caregiver, and a relationship is forged. 8.0
Films about South Africa / Apartheid
Toward the end of 2022, we were getting ready to take folks on a Joyful Vegan Trip to Rwanda, followed by a Joyful Vegan Trip to Botswana. The latter trip began and ended in Cape Town, South Africa, and we used it as an opportunity to read some books and watch some films about this country in general and apartheid in particular. I had a rudimentary understanding of apartheid and Nelson Mandela, but I wanted to know more. So, I read Diamonds, Gold, and War by Martin Meredith and Mandela’s autobiography Long Road to Freedom, and we watched a number of films about South Africa and apartheid.
Cry Freedom (1987) Like so many of the films we’ve seen about apartheid, it’s a good story but slightly flawed in the telling of it, despite being directed by Richard Attenborough. Still, I definitely recommend it, despite the awful accents. South African journalist Donald Woods is forced to flee the country after attempting to investigate the death in custody of his friend, the Black anti-Apartheid activist Steve Biko. 7.0
A Dry White Season (1989) Forgetful title, good story, mediocre dialogue. Still, our intention was to watch the most highly recommended films about apartheid, and this was one of them. It’s still a film worth watching, even if Sutherland’s Afrikaans accent is cringeworthy. A white middle class South African suburbanite with no interest in politics agrees to help his black gardener find his jailed son. His investigation opens his eyes to the horrors committed by the secret police and turns him into a target. 6.0
The Bang Bang Club (2010) While David wanted to rate it a 6.0, I appreciated this drama based on the true-life experiences of four combat photographers capturing the final days of apartheid in South Africa. Some of the scenes were impressively shot and harrowing to watch, and I sympathized with the different personalities of people being in a very difficult situation. 7.0
Goodbye Bafana (2007) This is the true story of a white South African racist whose life was profoundly altered by the black prisoner he guarded for twenty years. The prisoner’s name was Nelson Mandela. 7.0
FULL LIST OF MOVIES WATCHED AND RANKED IN 2022
Baby Driver (2017) 9.0
Hot Fuzz (2007) 9.0
Battle of Chile (1973) 9.0
Memories of Murder (2003) 8.0
Sacco & Vanzetti (1971) 8.0
The Mattei Affair (1972) 8.0
Beasts of No Nation (2015 ) 8.0
The Facts of Murder (1959) 8.0
The Getaway (1972) (As good as the first time I watched it 25 years ago.) 8.0
Pusher II (2004) 8.0
Pusher (1996) 8.0
Champion (1949) 8.0
Hell Is for Heroes (1962) 8.0
The Alpinist (2021) 8.0
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) 8.0
The Little World of Don Camillo (1952) 8.0
John Adams (2008) 8.0
The Bridge (1959) 8.0
The World’s End (2013) 8.0
The Intouchables (2011) 8.0
Torn (2021) 8.0
In Bruges (2008) 8.0 (2nd viewing for me; David hadn’t seen it before)
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) 7.0
The Unforgivable (2021) 7.0
Blue Valentine (2010) 7.0
Shaun of the Dead (2004) 7.0
The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) 7.0
Drive (2011) 7.0
Window (1949) 7.0
Shock Troops (1967) 7.0
Amen. (2002) 7.0
The Killing of America (1981) 7.0
The League of Gentlemen (1960) 7.0
Missing (1982) 7.0
Nevada Smith (1966) 7.0
Inherit the Wind (1960) 7.0
Crossfire (1947) 7.0
Lulu the Tool (1971) 7.0
The Night Caller (1975) 7.0
Elena (2011)(Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, same director as Loveless, The Banishment, Leviathan. See Films Watched in 2021.) 7.0
Don’t worry! I don’t recommend films in which animals are the victims of gruesome violence. So, grab some popcorn, get a pen and paper, and settle into this episode where I share my suggestions for films that are perfect for Halloween — for kids and adult alike.
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